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A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 4

hells-kitchen4In  this segment of the Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen series, I share the fourth step of the recipe – complacency – and more specifically letting your safety guard down and how it can result in failure to learn, implement and practice nationally accepted best practices. As complacency sets in, an organization can lose its inertia and its desire for continual self-improvement. [tweet this] Members can find themselves resting on their laurels, consumed with confidence and pride for how good they have become. A significant near-miss or a casualty event is the wake-up call.




CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 1

CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 2

CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 3

CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 5


9ab3216e04665d54bb89376c5f29539dThe Recipe from Hell’s Kitchen
STEP 1: Take a large helping of incompetent behavior.

STEP 2: Remove all the consequence.

STEP 3: Cover and allow confidence to rise.

STEP 4: Deny the existence of the deadly mixture until complacency sets in.

STEP 5: Put into PPE and send into an oven. When PASS Alarms ring the catastrophe will be ready.


Recall in the previous three segments I shared how when a first responder behaves in a way that is incompetent and without consequence, it can cause confidence to rise. Left unabated, these ingredients contribute to complacency. Complacency can manifest itself in several ways: apathy, laziness, and indifference. The surest way to head in the direction of disaster is to have public safety providers who are apathetic, lazy or indifferent. [tweet this]

When responders let down their guard, they significantly raise the risk of having a casualty event. A complacent responder may not even be phased by a near-miss event, even if it results in an injury. This is different from the scenario I spoke of in a previous segment where a responder is unaware of a near-miss. In this scenario, the responder is aware of the near-miss but simply dismisses it as a chance coincidence or the kind of thing that only happens to someone else.

Complacent responders lack the inertia needed for continual self-improvement. [tweet this] It’s almost like they’ve climbed to the summit of the mountain and now they are content with sitting there for the balance of their career, enjoying the view. Unfortunately, in public safety, complacency is the highway that casualty events travel down looking for a place to happen.

During my safety programs, I sometimes find myself in the presence of a complacent responder and those who are frustrated by the responder who has become complacent. Instructors can spot complacent responders. They act as through the lessons being shared are for the benefit of someone else, not them. Or they see themselves as invincible – believing the bad things only happen to someone else, not them. The frustrated responders share stories about how some of their co-workers are high-risk providers because they have become complacent, apathetic, lazy or indifferent.

Chief Gasaway’s Advice

Chief Gasaway's Advise

This is a very challenging situation because we’re taking about traits of human behavior that are difficult to change. Trying to convince a complacent person they need to change is tantamount to convincing a smoker they need to stop smoking. The motivation to change must come from within. One way you can try to accomplish this is to appeal to what is important to the complacent responder. For many of us, that would be family. The important thing is not to assume someone else’s passion. Better to ask.

Find a way to tie the need for continual self improvement – training on skills that are consistent to best practices – as a way to ensure they will be able to remain healthy enough fulfill their passions. If they seem to lack all passion, they may have deeper psychological issues (although I strongly discourage anyone from making an amateur diagnosis).

You may also try to appeal to them by sharing your passions and how it ties into your desire for continual self improvement. Share your passion but don’t become a zealot. If you go over the top you may only annoy them and turn them off. Remember the motive is to appeal to them in a positive way.

Another thing you can try is to invite them to participate on training and involve them in small ways, making incremental steps to bring them back into the fold. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.

In the final segment, I’m going to talk about consequence – the bad outcomes that result when the ingredients of the recipe come together and the organization suffers a line-of-duty death.

Action Items

Situational Awareness Matters!1. Discuss the factors you think contribute to first responder complacency.

2. Share examples you have witnessed where complacency have contributed to a near-miss or casualty events.

3. What strategies do you use to keep from becoming complacent in your training and preparation for peak performance?


CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 1

CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 2

CLICK HERE to go to: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 3

Stay tuned for Part 5


The mission of Situational Awareness Matters is simple: Help first responders see the bad things coming… in time to change the outcome.

Safety begins with SA! 


Share your comments on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you want to send me incident pictures, videos or have an idea you’d like me to research and write about, contact me. I really enjoy getting feedback and supportive messages from fellow first responders. It gives me the energy to work harder for you.




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4 thoughts on “A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 4”

  1. Pingback: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 5 | Situational Awareness Matters!™

  2. Pingback: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 2 | Situational Awareness Matters!™

  3. Pingback: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 3 | Situational Awareness Matters!™

  4. Pingback: A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 1 | Situational Awareness Matters!™

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